1. Start with a half hour brainstorming session. Go somewhere interesting, armed only with pen, paper, and caffeine. (Dog optional.)A Difficult Talk
2. Later that same day, use the results of your brainstorming to set the foundation for one hour of hard focus.
3. Wait until at least the next day to do your first multi-hour push on the project.
Bailey Next week, I’m giving the Theory Colloquium lecture here at MIT’s computer science laboratory. This means I’m facing one of the most common and most dreaded tasks of academic life: writing a talk.
Constructing good talks slides is grueling. The task is not so large that it can become a harmless background task in your life, and it’s not so small that it can be dispatched in a single inspired dash. In other words, like all medium-sized hard projects, it’s a catalyst for procrastination.
Here’s how I’m handling it…A Morning Brainstorm
This morning, I brought a notebook, a cup of coffee, and my dog, Bailey, out into the courtyard of my apartment building. I spent a half hour under the shade of a tall maple tree working out the big ideas of the talk while simultaneously frustrating Bailey’s life ambition to fully devour a tennis ball.
Then I put the work aside and did something else.
Later this afternoon, when I arrived at my office on campus, I spent another hour building the slides for the first 10 - 15 minutes of the talk.
And that was it for today.Tomorrow
I’ll make a hard push to finish a full draft of the slides, leaving almost a full week for my standard cycle of practice talks and polishing.